The winner of the giveaway copy of Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Concludes is ...
Congratulations! Expect an email from me requesting the pertenant details.
You may have noticed that I've been greatly enjoying giving away all the twists and turns in my new book, a practice I've always avoided in the past. It's just too much fun to resist, and after requesting giveaway entrants to predict what might happen to Charlotte, it only seems fair to publicly resolve her fate. The following excerpt takes place towards the end of Charlotte's first stay at Pemberley, following the Darcys marriage. During her visit, she has developed a close friendship with David Westover, the rector at Kympton. She and everyone else readily assumes his attentions equate courtship, but in the case of our absent-minded rector, such conclusions prove seriously flawed:
What are you grinning about, Charlotte? You look inordinately amused.”
“Your mother and mine have been gossiping about Mr. Westover.”
“That can’t be what so diverts you,” retorted Elizabeth, “for it is precisely the same manner in which we have been warding off boredom ourselves. Dear me! I do hope we are not turning into them!”
Charlotte laughed, “It would be proper punishment for us, too. We really should let the poor man alone.”
“That would be easier done,” said Georgiana with a shy smile, “if he was not so ready to bring himself to our attention.”
“Quite true, Georgiana!” applauded Elizabeth. “How shall poor Charlotte defend her position against such assault?”
“I shall not, having no wish to belabor the point. You will travel far before you will find someone more eager to surrender.”
“Nice derobement, Charlotte, as Mr. Darcy might say! We now have no choice but to change the subject.”
“I fear we shall have some difficulty in that,” Charlotte said with a cool smile, admirably concealing the rushing thrill of emotion she felt at the sight of Mr. Westover through the window, approaching the house with a meaningful stride.
“But it is not yet eleven o’clock!” cried Georgiana, rushing to the window to inspect the situation more closely. “Must he not be coming to ask Miss Lucas to marry him?”
Though the thought had already occurred to the two older ladies, neither replied to Georgiana’s question. Instead, Elizabeth busied herself helping Charlotte to straighten her cap and adjust her shawl. By the time the rector was announced, Miss Lucas was as admirably positioned as female ingenuity could contrive.
“Good morning, Mr. Westover,” greeted Elizabeth cheerfully. “I am afraid Mr. Darcy went out on horseback after breakfast, and we do not expect him home until later this morning. Did you have some particularly pressing business to discuss?”
“No indeed, Mrs. Darcy, and a very good morning to you too,” he beamed. “I came to speak with Miss Lucas, if she might spare me a moment.”
“Of course, won’t you Charlotte? Georgiana and I were just on our way to converse with Mrs. Reynolds, and your company will keep Charlotte from being unbearably dull,” and before the protest that hovered on Georgiana’s lips could be uttered, Elizabeth ushered her sister from the room.
“They needn’t have left,” he said with a tinge of confusion, though amusement reigned on his mien. “I did not mean to frighten them off. I hope my company is not so very boring.”
“Not at all, Mr. Westover,” protested Charlotte. “I think your conversation amongst the most interesting I have encountered.”
He smiled crookedly, “Now that your experience of society has been so measurably extended as to include my own, that means a great deal.”
She laughed, feeling far more at ease, “I thought we agreed you would not continue holding the limits of my experience against me!”
He mocked effrontery. “Indeed, Madame, and never I shall, except when it is to my decided advantage.” Both expressed their diversion, and he continued, “It is precisely for your great breadth of experience that I come to you today. I have a puzzle that requires your attention.”
“I will be happy to give it, but I must protest against any qualifications you so wrongly attribute to me in seeking my opinion.”
“No! You must not. I rely on your taste, sensibility, and judgment, if you must have a litany of your accomplishments, and I have unwavering faith in all three.”
Charlotte, allowing her practical self to be swept away in the moment, grew saucy. “And what role have you planned to thrust on me? If I did not know better, I would think you describe the qualifications of a wife.”
He looked at her quizzically, “I suppose they would do very well in such a case, but I had rather intended critic.”
Now she looked confused. “Critic? Of what?”
He pulled a small stone from his pocket. “I was attempting a rendering of this specimen, but have been unable to properly capture the color. Tell me – would you begin with green or blue as the foundation? I have tried both, but no matter how much white I add, neither seem to give me just the right shade.”
Charlotte looked at him aghast, only slowly recovering herself. “This is what you wished to see me about?” she asked, taking the stone in one shaking hand.
He nodded affirmatively, inspecting her so closely that she felt the specimen, rather than the chunk of mineral in her hand. Staring at it intently and blinking tears from her eyes, she managed to say, “I think you might want to begin by blending a grey, and then add just a touch blue. I cannot detect any green in the shade.”
“Begin with grey,” he nodded, taking the rock from her extended hand and uncomfortably turning towards the window, where he looked out in seeming reverie. Charlotte silently thanked him for this opportunity to compose herself.
“Miss Lucas?” he asked tentatively, some moments later.
“Yes, Mr. Westover?” she replied, unable to conceal the anxiety in her voice.
“I do not like to mention what can only be mortifying to us both, but I fear there has been some dreadful misunderstanding, and my regard and admiration for you is too strong to not offer some semblance of explanation.” He paused, and she signaled for him to continue, “You see, I have never had any inclination for marriage, nor thought to live with any woman other than my sister. What kind of husband would I be, always busy in my library, taking irregular meals, and gallivanting about at all hours? It would be unfair to ask anyone to bear such a burden. You might do much better than me, Miss Lucas.”
Thousands of reasons why this was patently untrue swarmed through her mind, but she remained silent.
“I will not wait for Mrs. Darcy to return,” he said formally, all trace of their easy companionship destroyed. “Please bid her farewell on my behalf. Good morning, Miss Lucas.”
“Good morning, Mr. Westover.”
Check back tomorrow for Charlotte's Spoiler Part Two: The Intervention of Mr. Bennet.